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Business News/ News / India/  India plans to conduct DNA profiling of elephants for census 2022
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India plans to conduct DNA profiling of elephants for census 2022

The DNA profiling of elephants will be done to develope a scientific method of population estimation

The census will be conducted in three phases. (Reuters )Premium
The census will be conducted in three phases. (Reuters )

NEW DELHI:The government plans to conduct DNA profiling of elephants as part of the elephant census 2022 after previous counts threw up possibly inaccurate numbers.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), also for the first time, is converging elephant and tiger population estimation. The results for the census are expected to come in by July next year.

The DNA profiling of elephants will be done to develope a scientific method of population estimation. To ensure accuracy all DNA samples will be tested twice.

The census will be conducted in three phases. First, ground surveys will be conducted for indirect elephant signs including broken branches, footprints and dung. Results from camera traps and DNA analysis of dung samples will then be analysed. The numbers will finally be extrapolated to give a range for each region, said a ministry official.

Elephants will be identified for their herd, health and nutrition level, and body characteristics such as ear and tusk size.

In the past, the methods for elephant census were not scientific. They were more of a headcount than an actual census. According to the last census conducted in 2017, there were more than 27,000 elephants in India.

According to the ministry data, Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054). The total figures are lower than the previous census estimate from 2012 (between 29,391 and 30,711).

Experts believe comparisons cannot be made because different states employed different techniques in the 2012 census. The effort was not synchronised and hence mistakes or duplication could have resulted in overestimation.

In recent years, there has been a rise in human-animal conflict. Elephants move from one place to another and have been seen dispersing from forests into farms and across state borders.

This has led to crop damage and loss of life.

According to MoEFCC, 87 elephants and 359 people died due to human-elephant conflicts in 2020. The numbers in 2019-20 were 19 elephants, although human deaths were higher at 585.

Asian elephants are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

Most of the range states except India, have lost their viable elephant populations due to loss of habitats and poaching. Asian elephants used to be found in West Asia along the Iranian coast into the Indian subcontinent, eastwards into Southeast Asia and into China, covering over nine million km.

A population size estimate conducted in 2018 showed a wild Asian elephant population of 48,323–51,680. More than 60% of the population is in India.

Query sent to the environment ministry on 27 May remained unanswered on Sunday.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Swati Luthra
Swati Luthra writes on climate change, water, environment and forest issues for Mint. A graduate in Psychology, Swati has been mapping India’s policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at CoP-26 including achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.
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Published: 30 May 2022, 12:59 AM IST
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